This could turn out to be a highly interesting development in the ongoing Ukraine invasion saga. European nations and NATO members have repeatedly said that they will not be deploying troops to Ukraine to help them fight off the Russian invasion. But that doesn’t mean that highly motivated individuals not acting as members of other militaries or official representatives of other governments couldn’t volunteer to help, right? That’s apparently what Volodymyr Zelensky had in mind when he announced today that Ukraine would be forming a “foreign international legion” so that interested parties could enlist to help his nation beat back the Russians. Reminiscent of the French Foreign Legion, this could potentially allow volunteers from anywhere, including the United States, to travel to Ukraine’s borders with friendly countries and take up arms to swell their ranks. But how many people do you think might apply for such a tour? (Reuters)
Ukraine is establishing a foreign “international” legion for volunteers from abroad, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday.
“This will be the key evidence of your support for our country,” Zelenskiy said in a statement.
Given the nearly global outpouring of support for Zelensky and his countryman, I could definitely see some people quickly lining up to do this. Ukraine probably wouldn’t even need to offer to pay some of them. Of course, the people considering such an option would need to be fully aware of what they would be getting themselves into. Assuming the fighting is still going on by the time they get there (more on that in a moment), they would be offering to join in on what is close to being a guerilla warfare effort being fought largely in an urban landscape. The Ukrainians are fighting back with admirable spirit, but they remain outmanned and outgunned and the odds appear to be stacked against them. Anyone taking up arms alongside them could very well wind up being killed by Russian missile attacks or soldiers.
And how would Vladimir Putin respond to this news if a flood of American and European citizen-soldiers suddenly started showing up in the battle? Putin already seems to be unhinged on the best of days. If he found a reason to claim that the NATO countries were breaking their vows and sending in soldiers, it could serve as the excuse he might be looking for to expand the battle further.
Two other big pieces of news broke this morning that might have a significant impact on both Zelensky’s plans for a foreign legion and the future breadth of the war. The first item concerns an offer from Moscow to meet with a Ukrainian delegation near the border of Belarus for talks. Ukraine has reportedly already accepted the offer and the meeting could take place soon. But what Putin plans to “offer” is unclear. If he’s having second thoughts about the invasion at this point and is considering packing up and bringing his troops home, he couldn’t possibly do it without some significant offer from Ukraine so he could at least save face. That would likely involve ceding some territory in eastern Ukraine and a promise that Ukraine would remain “unaligned” with NATO. Would Zelensky bite on that at this point? Giving up territory permanently would be an awfully big ask.
Of course, Putin may not be in any mood for compromise and his “offer” might just be a set of conditions for Zelensky to surrender. (And that would almost certainly be flatly refused.) But another sign of Putin’s mood can probably be found in his order today to put all of Russia’s nuclear weapons facilities on high alert. This could be more posturing in an attempt to get the west to back off, but Putin seems so unstable at this point that we can’t rule out anything entirely.
President Vladimir Putin on Sunday ordered Russian nuclear deterrent forces to be placed on high alert, due to what he described as “aggressive statements” by Western adversaries.
During a meeting with top Russian officials, Putin directed the Russian defense minister and the chief of the military’s General Staff to put the nuclear deterrent forces in a “special regime of combat duty.”
“Western countries aren’t only taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic sphere, but top officials from leading NATO members made aggressive statements regarding our country,” Putin said in televised remarks
Talk about ratcheting the tension up even further when the knobs were already turned to eleven. What Putin is suggesting here should be obvious. He’s not going to launch nukes into Ukraine right across the border, particularly when his own troops are in there. (Or at least I hope he’s not that far gone mentally that he would consider it.) In his statement, he was referring to “unfriendly actions” and “aggressive statements” from western nations. He’s talking about shifting from a disputable border war all the way up to a nuclear exchange in a single step. And the targets for such atomic attacks would have to be European capitals or even the United States.
I certainly hope this is all just bluster on Putin’s part, stemming from the frustration he must be feeling over the slow pace of the invasion. But who can tell what’s going on these days inside of the mind of the madman across the water? The only thing worse than an insane lunatic in charge of an army is an insane lunatic with nukes. We have enough to worry about already with Kim Jong-un. We don’t need Putin suddenly morphing into a king-sized version of him.